Monos

Beginning high on a mountaintop above the Colombian clouds a ragtag group of eight kids are put through their paces by the guerrilla leader. Assigned their new names, their lives are now the property of the outcast fighters and their duty is to guard an american hostage and look after a milk cow. But left to their own devices, things soon take a turn for the worse.

Having to contend with an uncooperative and feisty hostage stretches their composure to the limit and beyond. Not being shy about the violence and brutality of the guerrilla warfare that these kids have let themselves in for, Monos doesn’t turn away when the harsh moments are shown and it is able to shock at times.

The performances from the largely youthful cast are uniformly superb, expressing their differences and characteristics well as they are thrown from one scenario into another, each becoming gradually more perilous. Their transformation from recruits to feral teenagers appears swift and not without complications, but highlights the effect of leaving these, mostly wild children anyway, isolated and given guns.

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The cinematography is top notch and brings in visions of Apocalypse Now as they descend into the jungle and the status quo takes another seismic shift. Close ups, night-time shots and fast moving pursuits contrast well with the glorious Colombian landscape and vistas. This is a superbly well made film in front and behind the camera, lead by Alejandro Landes’ direction and writing. There is a late scene where a couple of characters are swept down some rapids that is just phenomenal to watch.

The element that struck me the most during Monos was Mica Levi’s pounding and impressive score. Bringing a tension and pressure to the scenes, the repeated pounding, discordant music isn’t subtle in what it is trying to do but it is incredibly effective. It is unfortunate that I found the score to be implying a much greater or more consequential event that what actually occurred on the screen.

The similarities to William Golding’s Lord of the Flies has been mentioned and it isn’t without merit as these kids are left to themselves and, even with this group of unruly kids, bad things inevitably happen. It did, to me, feel more like a kids club Apocalypse Now: a simple tale without too much complexity, but told extremely well with some outstanding moments along the way.

40rating

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